Today’s post comes from Sheila Drummond, Deputy Director Diplomas Now at the Communities In Schools national office.
Earlier this month, ten national staff members joined 45 Communities In Schools staff and more than 300 additional Diplomas Now partners to participate in the Diplomas Now Summer Institute (DNSI) at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Diplomas Now is an integrated approach to comprehensive school improvement, designed to work in the nation’s most challenged middle and high schools to help students stay on track, or get them back on the path to succeed in school. The main innovation is that it leverages the work of three nationally recognized research-based organizations–Johns Hopkins University Talent Development program, City Year and of course Communities in Schools.
Diplomas Now was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Education as an Investing in Innovation (i3) recipient. It is the only secondary school transformation/turnaround model with national reach to be selected for this prestigious award.
The three-day training marked the start of our program year for the Diplomas Now i3 project, and brought together participants from new sites (recruited for i3) and legacy sites (schools implementing the Diplomas Now model for one to three years) in 13 urban school districts. During the Diplomas Now Summer Institute, we had the opportunity to learn about the core beliefs, tools, strategies and resources that Diplomas Now schools utilize to make sure our students are successful. There was also time to reflect upon experiences from the past school year, prepare with individual teammates for the upcoming school year and develop plans for new opportunities.
We had representatives from schools across the country, including those served by Communities In Schools affiliates in San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Columbia, S.C., Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, Miami and New Orleans. As we increase our Diplomas Now sites, we will also be expanding our Communities In Schools presence to Boston and East Baton Rouge, La. We will also be increasing our work in New York City to include Diplomas Now. Many of the Communities In Schools representatives at this training had an opportunity to share their skills and best practices by facilitating sessions.
One night we were treated to a reception and dinner at City Year Headquarters, which happens to be located in Boston. While there we got to hear about how the partnership is working in both Miami and the District of Columbia from the representatives of each of the partners, including school staff.
Everyone agreed that the highlight of the event was our send-off, the last plenary session of the institute. We were treated to an inspiring and wonderful affirmation of our work through a talk given by Clifton Taulbert. He is a motivational speaker and author, best known for his books Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored and Eight Habits of the Heart: Embracing the Values that Build Strong Communities. He told us his story and reminded us that the impact of our work with students correlates directly to what led to his success: “Somebody thought I mattered, when it mattered.”